Think back to the first time you went to the dentist. Chances are you don’t remember how it all played out, but you may recall that you got a special treat, like picking out a sticker or toy prize out of a big bowl before you left the dentist’s office, or that your Mom stopped off for ice cream or at your favorite fast food restaurant on the way home.
Creating positive memories around your first trip to the dentist is important, says our own Ginger Rome, DDS, at The Dentists at North Cypress in Houston, Texas. In this blog, she shares her insights and tips for preparing your child for the first of a lifetime of trips to the dentist.
Chances are your child’s only other medical professional is their pediatrician, and their most prominent memories are most likely connected to times they were sick. In most cases during their lifetime, your child will see their dentist much more frequently than their primary care physician, so make the early experience a good one.
Like many important things you teach your child, you want to create a pleasant, positive experience when your child goes to the dentist for the first time. Positive memories lead to positive reinforcement for future visits, which in turn creates good oral habits like getting regular dental checkups. Seeing the dentist at a young age goes far when it comes to reducing dental anxiety and promoting optimal oral health.
Here at The Dentists at North Cypress, we recommend making your child’s first pediatric dental care appointment right after their first birthday or when their first baby tooth breaks through the gum line –– whichever happens first.
Each first visit plays out differently, depending on the age of your child. Generally, the appointment is more information intake than an examination. The dentist asks the parent or guardian about the child’s brushing habits or discusses possible issues with thumb sucking or pacifiers. Through this information, your dentist gauges the potential risk level for tooth decay.
Your dentist then gently examines your toddler’s teeth and gums, looking for signs of cavities or other potential oral health problems. If needed, your dentist cleans your child’s teeth and recommends the frequency of future visits.
One of the best things you can do to get the appointment off to a great start is to set a good example. Your child looks to you for cues on what to expect so keep the mood positive and your tone upbeat.
If you or an older sibling is due for their appointment, schedule both at the same time and do the older appointment first so the younger child can watch. If your child carries a security blanket or has a favorite stuffed animal, bring it along to establish that feeling of safety. Don’t forget to reward good behavior after the appointment concludes.
There are plenty of children’s books and videos about a child’s first trip to the dentist. Use the time leading up to your child’s visit to provide an educational and entertaining sneak peek into this new experience. This tactic helps your child better understand what to expect using mediums that they are already familiar with. The experience will likely trigger questions for you, so you get to answer the big questions and minimize the fear factor.
At every step of the way, not only plan for more fun and less formality but also strategically plan to avoid pitfalls that may make the appointment more stressful. A good rule of thumb is to schedule the appointment at the time of day when your child is less likely to be fidgety or fussy.
In other words, naptime or a time when your child tends to be hungry is a hard no. Serve your child a light meal or snack sometime before the appointment, and of course, make sure they brush their teeth afterward.
Is it time for your child’s first visit to the dentist? The Dentists at North Cypress specialize in family dentistry and pride ourselves in creating a warm, welcoming environment for patients of all ages. Contact us to set your appointment by calling or scheduling an appointment online today.